Tyrone Student Wins State Poetry Competition; Advances to Nationals

With its implicit themes and figurative language, most high school students dread studying poetry. But Tyrone senior Mario Grugan is not most high school students.

Grugan’s love of poetry and his exceptional talent for public speaking has made him the 2022 Pennsylvania State Champion in the national Poetry Out Loud competition.

After a fourth-place finish last year as a junior, Grugan won states as a senior and will represent Pennsylvania in the national finals on May 1.

It’s a massive honor to be chosen for this. It took a lot of time and preparation so it’s very rewarding to come out with the win”

— Mario Grugan

“I was very surprised to win. Out of over 4,000 people who competed in Pennsylvania, only one moves on to nationals. It’s a massive honor to be chosen for this,” said Grugan.“It took a lot of time and preparation so it’s very rewarding to come out with the win,” said Grugan.

According to the state Poetry Out Loud website, 4,217 Pennsylvania high school students from 86 schools participated in the competition this year.

Grugan first had to win the local round of competition, held at Tyrone High School on January 6th, 2022. He then won the regional level competition which was held virtually.

At states, Grugan competed against 13 other regional finalists to earn the right to represent Pennsylvania at nationals.

The Poetry Out Loud competition began in 2005 and is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and arts agencies from across the United States and its territories.

Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has reached more than 4.1 million students and 68,000 teachers from over 17,000 schools and arts organizations in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

The local competition was sponsored by Tyrone Speech Team Coaches Leah Deskevich and Gabby McLarren, who has worked with Grugan since he was a freshman.

“I’m thrilled that a member of our speech team took the top spot at states. Mario has much to be proud of. Look out, nationals, here he comes!” said Deskevich.

Grugan honed his public speaking skills on the speech team and mock trial team for the past four years, winning numerous awards in both academic competitions.

Not only is he gifted when it comes to oration, but Grugan is also a curious and talented student, according to Tyrone English teacher Stephen Everheart.

“[Mario] wants to know why particular literary, religious, art, and philosophical works have had centuries-long staying power. He not only devours chunks of these works, he emulates them in his own creative writing. That’s the mark of an educated person,” said Everhart.

“He even has great hair, which may or may not have contributed to his state championship in Poetry Out Loud,” added Everhart.

I’m thrilled that a member of our speech team took the top spot at states. Mario has much to be proud of. Look out, nationals, here he comes!”

— Speech Team Coach Leah Deskevich

To enter the contest, competitors chose three poems to recite from an extensive list of acclaimed poetry found on the Poetry Out Loud website.

Competitors are judged in categories including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, and evidence of understanding.

Poems must be recited from memory and any missed words or rephrasing from the author’s original work results in a score deduction.

The winner from each state received a $200 cash prize along with $500 for their school to purchase poetry materials.

The Pennsylvania runner-up was Julia Wirth of DuBois Area High School. She received a $100 check along with $200 for her school to purchase poetry materials.

Grugan is now eligible for a share of $50,000 in awards and scholarships that are given to the national winners, including a $20,000 award for the National Champion, $10,000 for 2nd place, $5,000 for 3rd place, and $1,000 for 4th-9th places.

The representing schools of each of the top nine finalists also receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. There will be one honorable mention in each of the three national semifinals competitions. Those students will not advance to the finals, but will each receive a $1,000 cash award and a $500 school/organizational stipend.

The national competition will be streamed virtually starting May 1st.